UW study to examine marijuana use during pregnancy and its impacts on fetal and infant development

Vesna Andjic via Getty Images

by Natalie Guevara, Seattle PI

Marijuana use by pregnant women has been on the rise — it’s one of the most widely used substances by pregnant women in the United States, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Now, researchers at the University of Washington are recruiting pregnant women for a study examining whether prenatal marijuana use affects the baby, and how it could impact fetal and infant development.

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The study, called Moms + Marijuana, will examine 35 women who use marijuana during their pregnancy and compare them to a control group of 35 who do not. The test group will include women who use marijuana at least twice a week, primarily to control morning sickness.

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“This study is targeting a very specific population of women who are using marijuana to manage their symptoms while they’re pregnant,” Natalia Kleinhans, study co-leader and radiologist at UW’s School of Medicine, said in a news release. “There’s little research to back up the medical and public health advice they’re getting to stay away from pot to control nausea.”

The main goal of the study is to understand how marijuana use affects fetal and infant growth and development — without the confounding influences of other drugs.

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“The very few investigations that have studied prenatal cannabis exposure and infant brain development have all involved women who are polysubstance drug users. No one has looked at marijuana use exclusively,” Kleinhans said in the release.

To qualify, mothers-to-be should be 21-34 years old and no more than 13 weeks pregnant. They must consume marijuana either frequently or never. A phone screen will be performed by researchers to determine further eligibility.

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Participating mothers will be tested regularly to ensure they are not using other substances. They will meet with researchers three times during pregnancy, and then again when their baby is 6 months old.

Participants will receive $300 for completing the study, and will be able to receive digital images of their baby’s brain and a development report.

For more information or to sign up for the study, visit the study’s website, as well as the corresponding Facebook and Twitter pages.